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IUSA responds to FIRE ‘yellow light’


By Bailey Loosemore




In response to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s “yellow light” rating, the Indiana University Student Association has decided to make language changes to some of IU’s policies, including those in the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct and Stop It! Brochure.

According to FIRE, a yellow light university is one with at least one ambiguous policy that encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application.

“IUSA vehemently opposes any University code or rule that seeks to restrict or infringe on any student’s rights to assemble, advocacy and expression,” Murat Kacan, chief of communications
for IUSA, wrote in an IUSA letter response. “We hold the First Amendment to be amongst our greatest rights and have no tolerance towards its repression in any form.”

Members of IUSA, including Kacan, participated in a conference call with FIRE on Tuesday to clarify some of the yellow light ratings and figure out a way to raise the rating.

“We think that IU is a green light school,” Kacan said.

Some of the language in the student code, brochure and other policies could be reworded to better fit FIRE’s standards, Kacan said. However, he said FIRE has a few inconsistencies.

The Stop It! Brochure, which offers students information on how to report incidents of harassment, was one of seven IU policies given a yellow light rating.

“They used the brochure and cited it as University policy,” Kacan said. “What FIRE was trying to imply was that if you are offended in any way, we will investigate it. Really, it’s just a tool for students to know that there are places to go where they can receive support. For us, the First Amendment is implied, but for FIRE, they want more specific language.”

There were a few issues with policy language that IUSA members agreed could be better stated, Kacan said. One example is the vagueness with which the University defines “fighting words.”

“That is something we’re going to approach,” Kacan said. “I would say that we hope to submit the language changes within two weeks.”

In addition to changing the language of some of the policies, Kacan said IUSA will also look to make another location on campus available for protests. Currently, the only designated spot is Dunn Meadow.

During the conference fall with FIRE, Kacan said they went over each yellow light issue to examine the language of the policies.

“Its not that the policies were restrictive,” he said. “At no point did FIRE tell us, ‘You just need to get rid of this policy.’ We’re going to continue working with them. We already have examples of correct student code languages.”

While IUSA will continue to be in contact with FIRE, Kacan said it is good to take a step back and look at the organization making
 the rankings.

“When they’re doing these investigations, all the research comes from online,” he said. “They straight-up told us that they didn’t see the need to contact the student body in order to determine the ranking. He said, ‘We can’t see how contacting the student body would change the rating for the school.’”

When looking at IU in terms of restrictions, Kacan said he believes IU does encourage freedom of speech.

“We feel like the University holds free speech as one of the highest rights on campus,” he said. “I’ve seen protests on campus, and I think the school in a way is damned if they do, damned if they don’t. The point we’re trying to make is the student code really falls under our domain, and we can’t just leave it up to the University to fix or change it.”


To read a letter response from IUSA regarding FIRE’s “yellow light” rating, visit www.iusa.indiana.edu.

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